Saturday, December 18, 2021

Merry Christmas, Jack!

Jack taking a short break
in Santa's chair inside
chapel car 5 Messenger 
of Peace.
Jack Christensen has had a long railroad career.  He began as an engine wiper for the Northern Pacific Railway in the Auburn roundhouse.  He first operated a steam locomotive on Christmas Eve 1943 when he was just 16 years old.  16?  Yes, apparently the locomotive engineer called for the Auburn yard had been at a party and wasn't fit for duty.  During WW II there were labor shortages everywhere and Jack was the only person fit and available to run a locomotive.  So with a little encouragement and guidance, he was called upon to run a switcher in the Auburn Yard for several hours.  Jack went on to experience a long career with the Northern Pacific Railway, the Burlington Northern Railroad, and then the BNSF Railway, as a fireman, engineer, road foreman, and more.  He retired in 1999.  Along the way he became an accomplished artist.

Walla Walla Valley Railway 770  
as the King Street switcher in the
For more than 20 years, Jack has been painting the annual greeting card for the Northwest Railway Museum.  (This year, members received a greeting card featuring Jack's painting of the 770.  This locomotive is in the Museum's collection and moved to Snoqualmie in November 2021.)  The Snoqualmie Depot, 924, the rotary snowplow, and many other artifacts have become the subject   of Jack's many carefully researched works of art. 

Jack and Mary on the 
deck of 924.
Jack remains active in the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, and has been closely following the Northwest Railway Museum's restoration of steam locomotive 924.  During Santa Train 2021 Jack got a little surprise: he had an opportunity to see the 924 operate.  It was a damp December morning when his daughter Mary - herself an accomplished museum professional at the Museum of Flight in Seattle - drove Jack to Snoqualmie to see the 924 under steam.  It had been a few decades since Jack had been on a "hot" steam locomotive, but when he was invited to board the 924, this spry 95-year-old was up the ladder like a new hire.

Jack on the right side of
the cab, where he belongs! 
Jack enjoyed seeing and hearing the 924 "bake a cake" and when he was invited to engineer the 924 into the siding, he lit up and quickly made his way into the cab.  A few minutes later, he had the Johnson bar in position, the cylinder cocks open, and the throttle slowly admitting steam to the cylinders.  The 924 quickly sprung to life and an unmistakable grin appeared on Jack's face.  How many people in the world today can say their steam experience spans nearly 80 years?

Enjoying the moment.
Mr. Christensen: thank you for all the beautiful artwork that has raised awareness about the 924 project, supported ongoing fundraising, and given enjoyment to thousands.  Merry Christmas, Jack!

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Lake Recognized

The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust has recognized Northwest Railway Museum Registrar Cristy Lake for her contributions to the Greenway.

Lake was awarded the prestigious Jim Ellis Spirit Award at the Greenway's annual dinner (click to watch a video of the presentation), which recognizes her tireless dedication to the preservation of Snoqualmie Valley and Regional Heritage.  Some of her recent achievements include her contributions to the Trust's National Heritage Area Advisory Committee, preservation of local heritage through her work as Assistant Director of the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum, and her recent efforts to preserve the collection of the Bellingham Railway Museum following their unexpected closure.

The Jim Ellis Spirit Award honors the example that he set from the very beginning of the Greenway, recognizing individuals who embody the Greenway values of collaboration, inclusion, trustworthiness, positivity, and pragmatism.  

Jim Ellis was active in the community for much of his adult life and focused on public works and nature.  He served on the University of Washington Board of Regents; as a proponent of Forward Thrust bond measures that established parks, swimming pools, preserved farmland, established the beginning of the Burke Gilman Trail on the right of way of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, built the Washington Trade and Convention Center, and more; and his efforts helped create a new kind of government and for this he was often called the father of Metro.  He retired as a municipal bond lawyer from Preston, Gates and Ellis and is best known for his instrumental role in the establishment of the Mountains to Sound Greenway, which was recently designated a National Heritage Area.  Mr. Ellis passed away in 2019 at the age of 98.

Cristy is the Collections Registrar for the Northwest Railway Museum, and also serves as the Assistant Director of the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum.  She has been active in the field of heritage for all of her adult life, and is a graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla and the University of York in York, UK.

Congratulations Cristy!